Market close: Banks shine while NZ stocks ease 0.5%

The big Australasian banks put on a strong showing while the rest of the market drifted lower in tentative trading ahead of the reporting season, which starts later this week.

The S&P/NZX50 index finished at 12,700.83, down 69.17 points or 0.4 per cent.

There were 97 gains and 84 falls among the 80.6 million shares (worth $245.4m) traded.

Among gainers were ANZ Bank, up 48c to $30.25 and Westpac up 50c at $26.70.

Salt Funds managing director Matt Goodson said very strong US non-farm payrolls data, which showed the US unemployment came in at 5.4 per cent in July against market expectations of 5.7 per cent, saw US bond yields rise sharply.

“The knee-jerk trade when bond yields rise is to buy banks, which are leveraged to a positively sloping yield curve,” Goodson said.

He also noted New Zealand wholesale interest rates were again on the move, gaining by three to seven basis points across the yield curve.

Media speculation in Australia resurfaced over rumoured takeover interest in Z Energy, which firmed 5c to $3.10.

The Australian newspaper said the focus was narrowing on global fuel trader Vitol and Australian listed fuel retailer Ampol – which owns Gull Petroleum – as possible the suitors for Z Energy.

The paper said last week that Z Energy was believed to be in the crosshairs of at least two suitors, and that it had drafted Goldman Sachs as its defence adviser.

Goodson said Ampolex would struggle with Z Energy, which also owns Caltex NZ.

“It would be very hard for Ampolex to own both the Gull, Z Energy and Caltex brands,” he said.

Vitol is an Asia Pacific refiner and trader.

Shareholders in Refining NZ last week voted to shut the refinery at Marsden Point and turn it into an oil terminal.

“Clearly, with the refinery closing they (Z Energy) needs to source its fuels from somewhere so the likes of Vitol would have an interest in supplyingthem,” Goodson said.

“Whether than extends to them wanting to take over the business that is in terminal decline is another matter,” he said.

“Our view is that there will come a point where the demand will decline very rapidly once electricity is proven to be demonstrably superior,” he said.

“The day is coming when electricity will beat petrol.”

Shares in Refining NZ firmed 4c to 90c.

Auckland Airport gained 3c to $7.23 after the company announced a “reset” of its precinct-wide infrastructure plan.

The groundwork is being laid for a new purpose-built domestic facility to be merged into the eastern end of the existing international terminal as Auckland Airport resets its post-Covid infrastructure plans.

Site preparation early next year will kick off the first stages of a project to move jet flights arriving and departing for major New Zealand towns and cities into a new domestic hub merged into the current international terminal, the company said.

Briscoe Group gained 20c to $6.20 after last week reporting a 22.6 per cent lift in sales for the half year to August 1.

Clothing retailer Hallenstein Glasson Holdings fell 11c to $7.07 after advising that several of its shops in Australia will be closed for the various lockdowns there.

As per previous updates, the group said it continued to see an increase in online sales which has helped to lessen the overall sales impact inAustralia.

The reporting season, which is due to open on Thursday with results from Vital Healthcare and Precinct Properties, is expected to show strong mid to high single digit profit growth from most companies, aside from those who remain severely affected by border restrictions and Covid-19 lockdowns.

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